Main Engine Cut Off

T+133: Kurt Klaus on CLPS

Kurt Klaus, Chair of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group’s Commercial Advisory Board, joins me to talk about NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, and the wider potential for commercial flights to the Moon and beyond.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 39 executive producers—Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut, Frank, Rui, Julian, Lars, Tommy, Adam, Sam, and six anonymous—and 271 other supporters.

T+132: SpaceX SmallSat Updates

SpaceX updated their SmallSat launch offering—dropping the price and increasing the number of flights. It certainly looks like they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the small launch market.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 39 executive producers—Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut, Frank, Rui, Julian, Lars, Tommy, Adam, Sam, and six anonymous—and 269 other supporters.

Relativity, Momentus Announce Launch Agreement

Just a few weeks ago, Momentus and SpaceX announced an agreement to fly on one of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshares, and now this.

Momentus is certainly lining up launches, but I’d love to hear a bit about their customers.

On the Relativity side, they’ve got quite a nice little backlog growing, but very few of their launch contracts have much in the way of concrete details.

ASLON-45 Re-Awarded to Aevum

After the weird situation where the US Air Force awarded Vector a contract the same week Vector shut down, the ASLON-45 mission is headed Aevum’s way.

Aevum is working on an autonomous air launch platform, and has been reluctant to release many technical details yet, so there’s really no telling how far along they are currently. The launch date is set for late 2021, so Aevum must have some confidence they can get there in two years.

Then again, everyone thinks that.

I will say that as far as ASLON-45 goes, some of the names that you would think would launch this mission didn’t bid for it, so that’s why you’re seeing names that are not yet showing actual hardware.

Boeing Unveils Small GEO Product, Whereby Small They Mean Medium

Caleb Henry, for SpaceNews:

Boeing’s small GEO satellites will weigh roughly 1,900 kilograms unfueled, relying on reprogrammable, software-defined payloads that are considerably smaller than earlier technologies, Eric Jensen, Boeing’s vice president of global commercial satellite sales, said in an interview.

Jensen said Boeing designed its small GEO product as a solution for operators reluctant to invest in traditional, multi-ton comsats in the midst of changing market conditions and the introduction of megaconstellations.

The small GEO trend that has been talked about of late typically refers to satellites a few hundred kilograms in mass. Nearly two tons unfueled probably doesn’t fit the trend in the same way, but at least Boeing is trying.

More Starlink Tweaks

Caleb Henry for SpaceNews with a nice update on Starlink over the weekend:

In a filing to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, SpaceX said it wants to triple the number of orbital planes at 550 kilometers, the altitude where its lowest layer of Ku- and Ka-band Starlink satellites are to operate.

“The proposed respacing would require fewer launches of satellites — perhaps as few as half — to initiate service to the entire contiguous United States,” SpaceX told the FCC Aug. 30. “Globally, the modification would enable more rapid coverage of all longitudes to grow toward the Equator, as well as bolstering capacity over in areas of greater population density.”

Any changes that get SpaceX closer to service are great. Speed to at least some level of service is a huge priority for a project as big as Starlink.

Thanks to August Patrons

Very special thanks to the 306 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off on Patreon for the month of August. MECO is entirely listener- and reader-supported, and it’s your support keeps this blog and podcast going, growing, and improving, and most importantly, it keeps it independent.

And a huge thanks to the 40 executive producers of Main Engine Cut Off: Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Jamison, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Rui, Julian, Lars, Tommy, Adam, Sam, and six anonymous executive producers.

If you’re getting some value out of what I do here and want to help support Main Engine Cut Off, head over to Patreon and join the crew of supporters and producers!

There are other ways to help support, too: head over to the shop and buy yourself a shirt or a pair of Rocket Socks, tell a friend, or post a link to something I’m writing or talking about on Twitter or in your favorite subreddit. Spreading the word is an immense help to an independent creator like myself.

T+131: Andrew Rush, CEO of Made in Space

Andrew Rush, CEO of Made in Space, joins me to talk about their big new NASA contract for Archinaut One and the history, present, and future of in-space manufacturing.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 40 executive producers—Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Jamison, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, David, Grant, Mike, David, Mints, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut, Frank, Rui, Julian, Lars, Tommy, Adam, Sam, and six anonymous—and 265 other supporters.

Astrobotic to Fly on First Vulcan Flight

Astrobotic, the world leader in commercial delivery to the Moon, was selected by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver up to 14 NASA payloads to the Moon on its Peregrine lunar lander in 2021. With this $79.5 million CLPS award, Astrobotic has now signed 16 customers for lunar delivery on its first mission.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander will launch on a Vulcan Centaur rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch of this mission will serve as the first of two certification flights required for ULA’s U.S. Air Force certification process.

I could pretty much copy and paste my thoughts from last week about Dream Chaser flying on Vulcan: not surprising news since we had expected Atlas V, and I wonder what will happen if Vulcan doesn’t get to be a part of the next round of Air Force contracts.

I also wonder what ULA would do if Astrobotic’s flight is delayed. At that point, schedule would be more critical for ULA than making good on what I presume is a free flight, so I’d guess they’d fly empty or throw Tory Bruno’s car on top.

It is notable that now all seven flights for Vulcan are shifted over from all-but-previously-announced agreements to fly on Atlas V—not exactly the sales record that makes me believe in Vulcan’s ability to be a commercial success. Ariane 6 is in a similar spot.